Research Center • ALICE Essentials Index

We all know people who are ALICEAsset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE workers educate our children, keep us healthy, and make our quality of life possible, yet do not earn enough to support their own families. ALICE households are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, which have long-term consequences not only for ALICE, but for all.

In order to better understand this growing population, United For ALICE provides a framework, language, statistics, and tools that community stakeholders can use to inform policy and drive innovation. The Research Center is the hub of — a one-stop source for exploring the latest ALICE data, on a national scale down to the local level in our partner states. Use the tabs below to navigate the Research Center.

The ALICE Essentials Index

The ALICE Essentials Index measures the change over time in the costs of the essential goods and services that households need to live and work in the modern economy.

The ALICE Essentials Index includes only essential household items (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a smartphone plan). In comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) covers a large group of goods and services that urban consumers buy regularly (housing, food and beverages, transportation, medical care, apparel, recreation, education, and communication services). The ALICE Essentials Index is calculated for both urban and rural areas.


The ALICE Essentials Index vs. the Consumer Price Index

Across the country, the ALICE Essentials Index has increased almost twice as fast as the CPI over the last decade. From 2007 to 2018, the average annual rate of increase for the ALICE Essentials Index was 3.3% in urban areas and 3.4% in rural areas, while the CPI increased by 1.8%. This difference is primarily due to the fact that the costs of basics, especially housing and health care, have increased, while the costs of other items — notably manufactured goods, from apparel to cars — have remained relatively flat.

The ALICE Essentials Index Compared to the Consumer Price Index, 2007-2018


The ALICE Essentials Index, Urban vs. Rural

A comparison of costs between rural and urban counties reveals interesting differences that are not captured in traditional inflation measures. The cost of living has generally been 20% higher in urban areas than in rural areas over the last decade, often driven by the cost of housing. Yet while the overall cost of living in rural America is lower, the ALICE Essentials Index shows that expenses there — especially housing — are rising at similar rates.

The ALICE Essentials Index, Urban vs. Rural, 2007-2018

For methodology details and sources, see the Report at the top of this page